Table Rock

Jade Moosman

Your odyssey begins in the chilly morning just as the sun peeks over the horizon. Your
shoulders support a lightweight backpack with nothing but the necessities: two water bottles,
sunscreen, a couple granola bars and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that will surely be
slightly squished by the end of your journey. Pebbles grind under your sturdy shoes as you
ascend the trail imprinted into the earth by millions of footsteps.
The scent of pine and earth wafts through the air as you trek up the mountain side
through aspens and conifers. Rays of sun shine through the dark trunks and the canopy of
branches, needles, and pine cones which are occasionally disturbed by the skittering and leaping
of squirrels, or the whistle of birds, landing and taking off above the trail. Small plants droop
over the path, soaking the calves of your pants with the morning dew. In some places the path
wanders through tall grass and coneflower plants, some of which come level with your waist,
others with your shoulders.
As you push onward, the trees grow farther apart, allowing more light to reach the forest
floor before you step out into the sun, no trees to shadow you from its life-giving rays. The trail
ahead winds through a meadow of vibrant grass and brush harboring a rainbow of wild flowers:
white and purple columbines, magenta sticky geraniums, indigo monkshood and mountain
lupine, red Indian paintbrush, scarlet gilias, white cow parsnip, small yellow sunflowers. These
are all original, natural colors. The yellow of buses, reds of stop signs, purple of nail polishes are
artificial, imposters of colors.
A mountain harebell catches your eye. You crouch down to study the dangling, light blue,
bell-like blooms sprouting from the stem. A few feet away you spot another mountain harebell,
but its petals are a darker shade of indigo; nearby is a third harebell but with purple blossoms.
You feel alive, lungs full of fresh air, nose filled with the scent of plants, eyes graced with the
sight of nature, skin kissed with the warmth of the rising sun. Ahead you spot a rock on which
you stop to rest, and take a drink.
Though you could sit here and admire this meadow for every moment of the day, you still
have a long way to go before reaching your destination.
You hoist yourself back onto your feet and continue on. Soon you come to a grove of
aspens, absent of conifers. It is here that you are reminded that everything around you is one. All
the aspens, with black splits in their white trunks, are part of a system of roots expanding from
only a few parent trees. It is not just the trees that are a piece of the unity you feel. You sense the
plants whispering with each other, their soft voices dancing through the leaves and grass with the
summer breeze. Even the very earth in which their roots extend is part of these sacred
conversations that hold all that surrounds you together, unlike any community from the place you
left.
You emerge from the treeline and see your destination in the distance, Table Rock. Before
you can get there you begin taking on the multiple switchbacks that keep you from beelining up
the steep incline to the top of the ridge. A couple of small green “Stay on Trail” signs appear
along the side of the trail, urging unwelcome feet to avoid eroding the plants and earth.
At the top of the switchbacks you pause to drink, catch your breath, and stare down the
distance between you and your goal. It is hard to say how many hours and steps it has taken to
get this far, but it does not seem to matter.
The final stretch, the hardest part of your expedition, starts at the edge of an expansive
rock bed of pebbles, boulders, and all sizes of rocks in between. Small stacks of rock slabs guide
travellers from one side to the other. This is where the climb gradually steepens. Your legs ache,
but each step brings you closer to the beauty which hides behind the rock table. Out of breath
and sweating, you are careful and deliberate with each step you take so as not to slip on the
hundreds of pebbles along the steepest portion of the trail. Despite your efforts, you cannot stop
your feet from taking a slide now and then. As you climb closer and closer to the top, you grip
the crags of the table to hoist yourself up the last few feet.
The freshest of air fills your straining lungs when, finally, you plant your feet firmly on
the top of the oval Table Mountain with grass and small flowers growing in between cracks of
the rock supporting your tired, but sturdy stance.
Now, 4,860 feet above where you started, you turn back around to see the foothills
shrouded by pines and aspens sloping down into a patchwork quilt of pastures and potato, wheat
and hay fields stippled with houses and forest groves all sewn together with dirt and asphalt
roads. From up here you are part of something more than you were down there. You turn around
to gaze upon the majesty of the mountain range, still spotted with wintery white, stretching from
left to right as far as the eye can see, and before you are the highest peaks of this range of
monumental mountains. The grandest of which surmounts another 2,715 feet into the sky. They
are painted with shades of gray and subtle blues and textured with shadows.
Euphoria envelops your soul as you stand before the subliminal magnificence. You are an
insignificant and blessed fleck of life who cannot comprehend the millions of years long past
which formed this edifice of granite and earth before you. Here on this summit, you cannot only
hear the voices of nature, but you can understand them. The divinity of nature encircles you,
permeating your senses, gathering you up in gentle welcoming arms, whispering, “You are
home.”